Leander, Cedar Park move forward on bond projects

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As the fall season of youth sports is in full swing, Jayne Serna, the president and co-founder of Leander Youth Soccer, said the grass fields at Robin Blesdoe Park are well-used and in demand.

She said in spite of the best efforts of the city’s parks department, the demand often leaves the natural grass in poor condition, and past cycles of drought and flooding make it difficult to maintain the grass.

Installing synthetic turf fields at Robin Bledsoe Park is one of the first projects to be completed using bond funds from Leander’s May 2016 bond election. According to city documents, the synthetic turf fields would provide fields in the park for soccer and football teams to use regardless of weather or field conditions.

“As the soccer league has grown, so a has demand for practice and game fields,” Serna said. “This improvement will be a great solution to [the]demand.”
Population growth in Cedar Park and Leander was a key reason why both cities held bond elections in the past two years. Both cities were looking for funds to help build capital improvement projects and streets and roads to serve the area’s growing number of residents.

Leander bond projects
In Leander’s May 2016 election, voters approved $71.6 million in transportation and parks and recreation projects, and they also approved funds for a senior center and recreation center.
The synthetic turf fields at Robin Bledsoe Park were part of the $26.7 million of the bond that were allocated for park improvements. City Finance Director Robert Powers said the fields are expected to be completed in the fall.

The bond also included $22.8 million for roadway projects. One of those is improvements to the streetscape along North Brushy Street in Leander’s Old Town District. The bond item is scheduled for construction in mid-November and includes adding on-street parking, streetlights, sidewalks, landscaping, street furniture and signage along Brushy.

Powers said the streetscaping will be a high-profile improvement for Old Town Leander.
“The City Council, as well as the chamber [of commerce], are doing a lot with making sure that Old Town remains not only viable, but an attractive location for redevelopment,” he said. “It remains a sense of Leander’s history and center.”

Leander also slated $6.1 million to extend Metro Drive from its current location at the Capital Metro Station to Mel Mathis Boulevard. The roadway will sit across from the main entrance to Austin Community College’s San Gabriel Campus, which will sit between Hero Way and Toll 183A, Powers said.

Another park project under construction is Veterans Park. The city installed five service flags along the banks of the park’s pond, known as the Walk of Honor, in December. Phase 2 of the project will add a structure honoring service members who went missing in action or were prisoners of war, Powers said. That phase is under design.

Leander voters also approved $18 million for a community recreation center. Powers said city staff has met with representatives from the YMCA, but the project is still in its early stages.

Proposition 4 allocated $4.2 million for a senior activity center, and Leander City Council approved an agreement in September for the center’s design, engineering and construction administration services. Council also authorized a committee of seniors age 55 and older to serve in an advisory role for the center.
“[The committee] is a very integral part of pulling together our active adult senior center,” Parks and Recreation Director Mark Tummons said.

Cedar Park bond projects
In November 2015, Cedar Park voters approved four propositions totaling $96.7 million for streets and roads, public safety, the public library and parks and recreation.

About $7.6 million was allocated for public safety projects, which include Cedar Park’s fifth fire station near the intersection of Cottonwood Creek Trail and La Jaita Drive. The city started construction on Fire Station No. 5 in September, which is planned to serve the fast-growing northeast and north central parts of the city.
“This is the latest demonstration of our commitment to public service,” Cedar Park Mayor Matt Powell said at a ceremonial ground breaking for the station in October. “It’s important that we provide our fire department with the best training, equipment and facilities.”

Along with Fire Station No. 5, construction is underway on Building 6 in the City Hall campus on Cypress Creek Road. City spokesperson Jennie Huerta said the building will house fire administration, the fire marshal’s office, the office of emergency management and the city’s emergency operations center.
Randy Lueders, a project manager in the engineering department, said Building 6 should be complete in November.

He said city staff is also in the process of selecting a contractor to expand Cedar Park’s police department at 911 Quest Parkway. The city plans to build a 12,200-square-foot, one-story expansion that will connect to the existing building through an enclosed corridor.

The $63 million streets and roads proposition includes expanding Anderson Mill Road to four lanes between RM 1431 to around Lime Creek Road. The first phase has been underway since January, and the project is expected to be completed in April, Lueders said.

The city also began extending New Hope Drive from Cottonwood Creek to Ronald Reagan Boulevard in August, Senior Project Manager Alan Green said. The city plans to later extend New Hope from Ronald Reagan to Sam Bass Road.

During a Sept. 28 City Council meeting, Green said the cost of New Hope’s second expansion is estimated to be $17.8 million, although only about $5 million of the amount is funded so far.

“At this time there’s no construction funds available, but this project will be designed and delivered to the shovel-ready status in anticipation of applying for federal funds for the construction of the project,” he said.
Proposition 1 also includes $20 million for the realignment of about a mile of Bell Boulevard. Cedar Park officials are planning to move the existing Bell roadway east to align with Old Hwy. 183 from Buttercup Creek Boulevard/Brushy Creek Road to just north of Park Street. Green said the city is looking to soon enter the final design phase for the roadway, which could last about one year. The bond funds also include reconfiguring the intersection at Buttercup Creek/Brushy Creek, Old Hwy. 183 and US 183, Huerta said.
Proposition 4 allocated $5.7 million for parks and recreation projects. One project is the development of the Lakeline Park property.

“The city has owned [the land]for many years and has always had the intention of turning it into the park,” Huerta said.

Other park projects include developing more trail and bike facilities, park amenities and acquiring new parkland, but those have not started yet, Huerta said. The bond also allocated about $20.5 million to the public library, though that project has also not started.

Huerta said the city’s first priority was getting started on roadway infrastructure and public safety capital projects.

“Those were things that really needed to be addressed first,” she said. “[The city] got to work right away on streets, roads and public safety as soon as we were able to move forward after the vote.”

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Caitlin covers Cedar Park and Leander city councils and reports on education, transportation, government and business news. She is an alumnus of The University of Texas at Austin. Most recently, Caitlin produced a large-scale investigative project with The Dallas Morning News and led education coverage in the Brazos Valley at The Bryan-College Station Eagle. After interning with Community Impact Newspaper for two summers, she joined the staff as a reporter in 2015.

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